Madge Gill

1882 to 1961, United Kingdom

Madge Gill was born out of wedlock in London and was raised by her mother’s family. Her relatives put her in an orphanage when she was 9 years old. In 1903 she returned to London and worked as a nurse.

She lived with her aunt, Kate Gill, who introduced her to Spiritism. Madge married her cousin Tom, Kate’s son, in 1907. They lived on limited means in London’s East End and had three sons. One of them died in 1918 from complications of the flu. The Gills had a stillborn daughter in 1919. Shortly afterwards Madge Gill’s right eye was replaced by a glass eye. She began to draw in 1919 following an experience in which a spirit she referred to as “Myrninerest” contacted her and inspired her to do so. For nearly 40 years she was a medium who produced creative works of art under the spirit’s guidance. She used ink to draw on large rolls of paper and small boxes similar to post cards. Women with delicate features framed by elaborate hairstyles and wearing hats in the style popular at the turn of the century were central to her work. They are surrounded by lines, shading and geometric figures that are reminiscent of special architecture. Her images of women are presumed to be self-portraits. Despite considerable demand, Madge Gill refused to sell her work. As a medium, she felt that she did not own her drawings. She also sewed dresses and wrote texts. She died of a serious illness a few days after her 79th birthday. Madge Gill ranks among the classic Art Brut artists. Her work appears in several collections, such as the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, in LaM, Villeneuve d’Ascq, France, the Charlotte Zander Museum at Schloss Bönnigheim in Germany, and the collection Eternod & Mermod, Switzerland.

 

Selected works